Born: October 25, 1884; Middlesbrough-on-Tees, England
Died: August 13, 1955; New York, NY
A singer of exceptional versatility, Florence Easton possessed a dramatic soprano large enough to do full justice to Wagner's Brünnhilde, while covering the big Italian roles and those of Strauss with consummate ease and style. Gifted with a mind more musical than found in many another singer, she was scrupulous with her interpretations and always superbly prepared. That she created the intimately lyrical role of Lauretta in Puccini's GianniRead more Schicchi is astonishing, though merely another testament to the range of her abilities. At age five, Easton traveled with her family to Toronto. Initially, her interest was in the piano and she pursued her keyboard studies with diligence. When she returned to England and enrolled at London's Royal Academy of Music, however, she began to study voice, primarily working with Agnes Larkcom. Later, Easton went to Paris and coached with Elliot Haslam, who aided her in securely placing the voice. Her 1903 debut took place in modest surroundings when she sang the Shepherd in Tannhäuser for the Moody-Manners Company in Newcastle. The following year, she married American tenor Francis Maclennan, with whom she later sang in Europe. In 1905, she began two years of touring America with the Henry Savage English Opera Company in a production of Rigoletto, after which she and her husband were engaged by the Berlin Hofoper. She remained with that company until 1913 and during that period, also made her debut in London, singing Beatrice in Edwin Naylor's The Angelus and Cio-Cio-San to her husband's Pinkerton. In the latter role especially, she was well-liked for her crystalline purity of voice and the ease with which she took the D flat at the conclusion of her entrance. From 1913 to 1916, Easton was a member of the Hamburg Städtische Oper, where she sang roles ranging from Sophie to Elektra. She next appeared with the Chicago Opera, singing a solitary Siegfried Brünnhilde to her husband's young Siegfried during the 1915 - 1916 season. Later, though, Easton became a favorite with Ravinia Park audiences during several summer opera seasons. On December 7, 1917, Easton made her debut at the Metropolitan Opera as Santuzza and remained an important member of that company for 13 years. Singing a remarkable variety of roles -- 39 in all -- she endeared herself to management who felt reassured by the availability of a first-class soprano prepared to sing nearly any role from her vast repertory on short notice. Her first appearance was greeted by the critical W.J. Henderson as that of a singer possessing "a voice of beauty and no inconsiderable power." A partial listing of her roles will confirm the ongoing utility she added to her artistic worth: Ah-Yoe (Leoni's L'Oracolo), Fiordiligi, Lodoletta, Nedda, the Marschallin, Carmen, Aida, Gioconda, the Walküre, and Siegfried Brünnhildes. In addition to Lauretta, Easton created the roles of Aelfrida in Deems Taylor's The King's Henchman and Mother Tyl in Albert Wolff's Oiseau Bleu. The soprano retuned to Covent Garden in 1927 to sing Turandot ("with complete command of its dramatic and cruel force," according to The Telegraph) and in 1932 to perform the Siegfried Brünnhilde and Isolde opposite Lauritz Melchior. In both Wagner roles, she was admired for her subtlety and beauty of voice. Easton retired from the Metropolitan in 1936, but continued to perform in concert until 1943. Read less
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